by Hashim Duale
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Major changes proposed to the way foreign nationals achieve British citizenship. The proposed changes follow a consultation and a series of 'listening events' held last year. That research found that most people want new residents to speak English, pay their way, obey the law and give something back to their communities.
A government green paper released 20th February 2008 proposes to build on those suggestions, starting with a 'citizenship contract' that would set out each new citizen's rights and responsibilities.
Other proposed changes include:
- creating a three-stage route to citizenship, including a new 'probationary period'
- requiring immigrants to either show that they've contributed something to the UK, or leave the country
- denying public benefits to immigrants who haven't received full citizenship
- requiring immigrants to prove they can speak English
- barring those convicted of serious crimes from receiving citizenship
- requiring those convicted of minor crimes to spend more time on citizenship probation
- requiring immigrants to contribute to a fund devoted to managing the impact of immigration
- speeding the citizenship process for immigrants who get involved in their local communities through volunteering
A clear set of responsibilities
In a speech, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he expects even tougher tests for citizenship in the future, with a clear set of responsibilities set out at each stage of the immigration process.
He described the proposed three-stage immigration system as:
- entry as a temporary resident
- time as a probationary citizen
- full citizenship
He said, 'For people coming to Britain, and wanting to be British, citizenship should not only be a matter of their choice, but should depend upon actively entering into a contract through which, by virtue of responsibilities accepted, the right to citizenship is earned.'
He said that all new residents - whether they're working here under the points-based system or applying to stay permanently - will be expected to be able to speak English.
He said there would be further consultation on proposals to withhold some benefits and social housing from non-permanent residents.
The PM said (transcript)
"For people coming to Britain, and wanting to become British, citizenship should not only be a matter of their choice but should depend upon actively entering into a contract through which, by virtue of responsibilities accepted, the right of citizenship is earned."
Mr. Brown added that all newcomers - whether workers here under the points-based system or those applying to stay permanently - will normally be expected to be speak English. There will be further consultation on the proposal to withhold certain rights afforded to citizens, such as benefits and social housing, from those with a non-permanent status, he added.
In a related article for regional newspapers, the PM called the moves the "biggest changes to the immigration system for a generation". He announced a new points-based system for EU immigration that will match the skills of applicants with the needs of the economy and a proposal to collect contributions from temporary residents to help fund local service provision.
"Over many years, Britain's open, global economy has enriched us as a nation - not just socially and culturally but economically too. Indeed, attracting skilled migrants to work in Britain's businesses is essential to the continued success of our economy and we will do nothing to put that at risk.
"But I believe that by being more explicit about what it means to be a British citizen we can not only manage immigration in a way that is good for Britain - for our citizens, our way of life, our society, and our economy - but at the same time we can move forward as a more confident Britain."
Proposed law 'clear and fair'
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the proposals were 'clear and fair.'
'The rights and benefits of citizenship will be available to those who can demonstrate a commitment to our shared values, and a willingness to contribute to the community,' she said.
'This is a country of liberty and tolerance, opportunity and diversity - and these values are reinforced by the expectation that all who live here should learn our language, play by the rules, obey the law and contribute to the community.'
These proposals are part of sweeping changes to the British immigration policy, including a new points-based system to encourage highly skilled immigrants to move here, as well as stronger border controls to ensure that it's harder for illegal immigrants to enter the country in the first place.
These reforms will be backed up by a single piece of legislation, which will replace all existing immigration laws. This new law will be introduced to Parliament in November.
To conclude, how does this affect and what does this now mean for the thousands of Somali nationals who era ready to acquire British citizenship:
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->If our community does not understand fully this Green Paper which is likely to soon become law with minor amendments, it will mean there will be more of a delay with regards to applying to and becoming a British citizen.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->If candidates do not plan ahead and, as usual, start running around at the last moment, without clear guidance, there will be many people who will fail this test.
How can we help our community become rightful citizens of Britain?
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Those of us (myself included) who help the community need first to train and inform themselves fully on the Government’s requirements before they can correctly advise others in the community. This is because bad advice can be costly for the poor applicant who has put their trust in you to help and advise them on this life changing matter of importance. It is absolutely important to educate oneself of every step and requirement of this law to avoid mistakes. In this country a simple mistake can have lengthy and devastating consequences.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Applicants must invest time in learning about what they ought be doing now, for themselves, (not later on) and not only limiting themselves and delaying their progress by taking every and anybody’s advice, some of which may be incorrect.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Always check the credibility of the advising body/ person.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->Remember this is a free service! Do not be ‘conned’ by those who will try to sell to you something that is free.
If you like to learn more please down load the green paper
Download the path to citizenship green paper from the Border and Immigration website. (new window)
E-mail: [email protected]